Interim Report on Our Search for Political Books and Authors

Peter Wood

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A week ago, we asked our readers for help identifying books and authors that we could use as part of a new NAS research project. Our aim is to examine hundreds of curricula to see whether there are disparities in the way conservative, liberal, libertarian, and radical political views are represented. To this end, we hope to compile very brief lists of key works (or authors) that beyond reasonable dispute accurately represent these broad points of view.  

Our goal is a list of ten books in each category. Any research project has parameters. Ours include rejecting any book that can be reasonably claimed by more than one political tradition. We’ve also set a cutoff date of 1750 on the grounds that works that are earlier than this are too difficult to assign unambiguously to the four traditions we are attempting to elucidate.

We’ve had a generous response from readers, for which we are grateful. We hope for more. Some contributors urged us to include Plato, Aristotle, and other slightly earlier than 1750 writers. We mean no disrespect to great thinkers of antiquity or early modern times but such writers wouldn’t really assist our research goal. Plato, for example, cannot be clearly characterized as conservative, liberal, or radical, although we can say he was definitely not a libertarian.

The suggestions we received also included a fair number of writers who are not well-known and therefore would have no value as standard indicators. The suggestions, however, have enriched our own reading lists—and may well be of interest to others who visit this site. Spooner, for example, comes to us as a highly recommended libertarian writer. We don’t know him but are eager to make the acquaintance.

Another unexpected kind of submission consisted of secondary works. We are currently of the view that our final list should consist of primary texts.

Finally, we have received a substantial number of names of important 20th century scholars who, however, are not in any obvious way representative of key political traditions. We enclose that list as well, partly in the spirit that it never hurts to give a nod of recognition to great thinkers and writers.

We’d also like to solicit your help with a second task. The work of reducing the abundance of suggestions to a consensus list of ten key works in each category can only benefit from wider discussion. In the end we will have to make our own choices but we want those choices to reflect a broad spectrum of informed opinion. We have two specific requests. First, in some cases we need your help in understanding where a proposed writer lies in our four-part political grid. You’ll find a list below of books and writers that we so far cannot categorize with confidence.

Second, we present below all of the names that have been suggested so far. We have also created a survey with the names; you can help classify the ones that belong on our list and nix the ones that don’t. Would you take a few moments to scan through the survey and rate the books and authors you know? Click here to take the political books and authors survey.

Suggested Books and Authors



Declaration of Independence x 2

Federalist Papers x 2

U.S. Constitution

Blanshard, Brand. Four Reasonable Men
Blanshard, Brand. Reason and Goodness

Bloom, Allan. The Closing of the American Mind

du Bonald, Louis. On Divorce

Burke, Edmund Reflections on the Revolution in France

Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents

Hanson, Victor Davis. Carnage and Culture

Hume, David. Inquiry into the Principles of Morals

Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty

Muravchik, Joshua. The History of Socialism

Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morals

Orwell, George. 1984


Dalrymple, Theodore. Life at the Bottom

Goldberg, Jonah. Liberal Fascism

Levin, Mark. Liberty and Tyranny

Mackay, Charles. Extraordinary Popular Delusion and the Madness of Crowds

Shlaes, Amity. The Forgotten Man

Sowell, Thomas. Black Rednecks and White Liberals

Sowell, Thomas. The Search for Comic Justice

Sowell, Thomas. The Sustaining Vision

Williams, Walter E. Do the Right Thing: The People's Economist Speaks


Bastiat, M. Frederic. Essays on Political Economy

Bastiat, M. Frederic. The Law x 2

Bastiat, M. Frederic. That Which is Seen and That Which is Not Seen

Hayek, Friedrich. The Road to Serfdom

Smith, Adam. The Moral Passions

Smith, Adam. The Wealth of Nations


Keller, Bill. Class Matters


Alinsky, Saul. Rules for Radicals

Marcuse, Herbert. Repressive Tolerance

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. The  Communist Manifesto



Adams, John x 2

Arendt, Hannah

Aron, Raymond

Belloc, Hillaire

Bentham, Jeremy

Bork, Robert

Buchanan, James

Burke, Edmund

Burnham, James x 2

Cass, Leon

Chesterton, G.K.

Dalrymple, Thomas

Dewey, John

Diamond, Jared

Disraeli, Benjamin

Epstein, Richard

Etzioni, Amitai

Ortega y Gasset, José

Galbraith, John Kenneth

George, Robert

Hamilton, Alexander

Hanson, Victor Davis

Hazlett, Henry

Hook, Sidney x 2

Horowitz, David x 2

Hume, David x 2

de Jasay, Anthony

Jefferson, Thomas

de Jouvenel, Bertrand

Kimball, Roger

Kirk, Russell

MacIntyre, Alasdair

Madison, James

Mill, John Stuart

Mills, C. Wright

Niebuhr, Reinhold

Nock, Albert Jay

Nozick, Robert

Nussbaum, Martha

Oakeshott, Michael 

Popper, Karl x 2

Rawls, John

Reich, Charles

Rothbard, Murray

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques

de Saussure, Ferdinand

Schlosser, Eric

Spencer, Herbert x 2

Stewart, Dugald

Taylor, Charles

de Tocqueville, Alexis x 2

Tullock, Gordon

Washington, Booker T.

Weaver, Richard x 2

Wilson, James Q.


Barzun, Jacques

Buckley, William F.

Fukuyama, Francis

Kramer, Hilton

Lippman, Walter

Mac Donald, Heather

Novak, Michael x 2

Paine, Thomas x 2

Podhoretz, Norman

Rozanov, Vasily

Schmitt, Carl

Scruton, Roger

Sowell, Thomas x 6

Voegelin, Eric



Bastiat, M. Frederic x 2

Friedman, Milton

Hayek, Friedrich de Maistre, Joseph

von Mises, Ludwig

Murray, Charles x 2

Rand, Ayn

Ropke, Wilhelm

Smith, Adam

Spooner, Lysander

Strauss, Leo


Beard, Charles

Coleman, James

Goodwin, William

Gore, Al

Moore, Michael

Rorty, Richard

Williams, William Appleman


Alinsky, Saul x 2

Adorno, Theodor

Ayers, William

Bakunin, Mikhail

Barthes, Karl

Benjamin, Walter

de Certeau, Michel

Chomsky, Noam

Davis, Angela

Deleuze, Gilles

Derrida, Jacques

Ehrenreich, Barbara

Foucault, Michel

Freire, Paulo

Habermas, Jürgen

hooks, bell

Horkheimer, Max

Irigaray, Luce

Kropotkin, Petr

Lyotard, Jean-François

Marcuse, Herbert

Marx, Karl

Robespierre, Maximilien

Sartre, Jean-Paul

White, Hayden

Williams, Raymond

Zinn, Howard

Excluded Books and Authors


Aristotle. Ethics (pre-1750)
Aristotle. Politics (pre-1750)
Cosandrey, David. Le Secret de l'Occident: Vers une Théorie Générale du Progrès Scientifique (not in English)

Thucydides. The Peloponnesian War (pre-1750)

Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan (pre-1750)

Locke, John. Second Treatise of Civil Government (pre-1750)

Lucretius. On the Nature of Things (pre-1750)


Epictetus (pre-1750)

Epicurus (pre-1750)

Hobbes, Thomas (pre-1750)

Locke, John (pre-1750)

Montesquieu (pre-1750)

Plato (pre-1750)

20th Century Scholars

Aries, Philippe

Auerbach, Erich

Baron, Hans

Becker, Carl

Bossy, John

Brading, David

Burckhardt, Jacob

Caton, Hiram

Chadwick, Henry

Chadwick, Owen

Cochrane, C.N.

Cochrane, Eric

Cowdrey, H.E.J.

Curtin, Philip

Curtius, Ernst

Daube, David

Elman, Benjamin

Gellner, Ernst

Gilbert, Felix

Gombrich, E.H.

von Grunebaum, Gustave

Guelzo, Allen

Hale, Charles A.

Halevy, Elie

Hazard, Paul

Huizinga, Johan

Jedin, Hubert 

Kantorowicz, Ernst

Kedourie, Elie

Kolakowski, Leszek

Kristeller, Paul Oskar

Kuklick, Bruce

Ladner, Gerhard

Lewis, C.S.

Lovejoy, Arthur O.

Lynn, Kenneth

Maitland, Frederic

Mandelbaum, Maurice

Maruyama, Masao

McGinn, Bernard

Meinecke, Friedrich

Miller, Perry

Momigliano, Arnaldo

Morrison, Karl

Needham, Joseph

Nisbet, Robert

Noll, Mark

Noonan, John T. 

Pocock, J.G.A.

Sansom, George B.

Scholem, Gershom

Teggart, Frederick

Troeltsch, Ernst

Venturi, Franco

Wilson, Arthur M.

Wolfson, Harry

Zimmerman, Carle




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